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ftrt                                                                                                                 B, POLEVOI
Ov
irresistible desire to see, not read, but see those old
letters—the contents of which he knew by heart—that
lay in his tunic pocket, to look at the photograph of the
slim girl sitting in the meadow-. He made an attempt to
reach his tunic, but his arm dropped helplessly upon the
mattress. Again everything floated in that grey gloom
spotted with rainbow-coloured rings. Later, in that gloom,
which rustled with curious stabbing sounds, he heard two
voices—Varya's and another, the voice of an old woman
that was also familiar to him. They spoke in whispers.
"He doesn't eat?"
"No, he can't. Yesterday he chewed a piece of flat
cake—the tiniest bit—and it made him vomit. That's no
food for him! He takes a little milk, so we give him some."
"Look, I've brought some broth-----Perhaps the poor
boy would like a little broth."
"Aunty Vasilisa!" exclaimed Varya. "Have you
really...."
"Yes, it's chicken broth. What are you surprised at?
Nothing extraordinary about it. Wake him up, perhaps
he'll take a little."
And before Alexei—who had heard this conversation-
could open his eyes, Varya shook him vigorously, un-
ceremoniously, and cried out with joy:
"Alexei Petrovich! Alexei Petrovich! Wake up!
Grandma Vasilisa has brought you some chicken broth!
Wake up, I say!"
The rushlight stuck in the wall near the door splut-
tered and burned up brighter. In the flickering, smoky
light Alexei saw a little, bent old woman with a hooked
nose and wrinkled, shrewish face. She was busying herself
at the table unwrapping something large; first she re-
moved a piece of sackcloth, then an old woman's coat,
then a sheet of paper, and finally exposed a small iron
pot which filled the dugout with such a delicious odour
of fat chicken broth that Alexei felt spasms in his
empty stomach.
Grandma Vasilisa's wrinkled face preserved its stern
and shrewish expression.
"There, I've brought you this," she said. "Please, don't
refuse it Eat it and get well. Perhaps, please God, it
will do you good."